Thursday, July 31, 2008

What is The Book of Mormon?

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.

The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.

After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the hill Cumorah. On September 21, 1823, the same Moroni, then a glorified, resurrected being, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him relative to the ancient record and its destined translation into the English language.

In due course the plates were delivered to Joseph Smith, who translated them by the gift and power of God. The record is now published in many languages as a new and additional witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that all who will come unto him and obey the laws and ordinances of his gospel may be saved
Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

In addition to Joseph Smith, the Lord provided for eleven others to see the gold plates for themselves and to be special witnesses of the truth and divinity of the Book of Mormon. Their written testimonies are included herewith as “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” and “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses.”

We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10: 3-5.)

Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.

From The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Introduction.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Power of Faith

I behold that ye are lowly in heart; and if so, blessed are ye.

Behold thy brother hath said, What shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God.

Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?

And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?

I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble.

And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.

And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?

Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.

Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.

Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.

Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.

And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?

Now of this thing ye must judge. Behold, I say unto you, that it is on the one hand even as it is on the other; and it shall be unto every man according to his work.

And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.

And now, behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word.

And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.

And now, my beloved brethren, as ye have desired to know of me what ye shall do because ye are afflicted and cast out—now I do not desire that ye should suppose that I mean to judge you only according to that which is true—

For I do not mean that ye all of you have been compelled to humble yourselves; for I verily believe that there are some among you who would humble themselves, let them be in whatsoever circumstances they might.

Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.

And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.

Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.

And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.

And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?

Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.

And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.

But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.

Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.

But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.

Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you (Alma 32:8-43).
“Of all our needs, I think the greatest is an increase in faith” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1987).

“Faith, then, is the first great governing principle which has power, dominion, and authority over all things; by it they exist, by it hey are upheld, by it they are hanged, or by it they remain, agreeable to the will of God. Without it there is no power, and without power there could be no creation nor existence” (Joseph Smith Lectures on Faith, 1:24).

“Could faith be the answer? We all know that more faith won’t make our problems disappear. But I believe as our faith increases, we become more able to not only survive the hard times but become better because of them. . . . faith means that I really believe that:

• Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live, and they are in charge of this world.
• They know me.
• They love me.
• They have a plan for my future.
• I will obey the commandments, work hard, and trust in their plan. Sooner or later, everything will be okay” (Virginia H. Pearce, Ensign, May 1994).

I know that by faith we can know all things. I know it is a true principle that as I exercise faith in a concept for long enough, it becomes a perfect knowledge. I see this change in my life with many principles. Faith is the first building block of everything spiritual. I know this is true and I share it with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Testimony Brings a Fullness of Joy

I know the spiritual things I know because God has taught them to me. I have seen his influence in my life as I "counsel with the Lord in all [my] doings" and continually "he will direct [me] for good" (Alma 37:37). God truly shows his love for me by guiding and directing me in ways where I could have never foreseen the outcome, in ways that are far better that my intended path. God has blessed me in this manner so many times, I cannot count them.

I am not a blind follower. I truly know that I know! For "it is a grand thing to know—and to know that you know and that the light has not been borrowed from another" (Douglas L. Callister, Ensign, Nov. 2007). I have been blessed with my own light of truth and knowledge, given to me by God the Father through the Holy Ghost. As I act on this knowledge, it continues to grow and I draw nearer to Jesus Christ.

It is a nearly indescribable feeling to have a testimony independent of any other person that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true church on this Earth, that God lives, that he is concerned with all things in my life, that Jesus Christ lives again, as a resurrected being after he took my sins upon himself, and died for me that I might have the opportunity to repent, and live with him and God the Father again in their kingdom! I know it is true because I have done as Jesus Christ taught, recorded in the Book of John, I have asked the father in Jesus' name, received an answer that the LDS Church is true, that all these principles I have mentioned and many others are true, and my joy is full (John 16:23-24)!

Blind Obedience?

"We all act upon or give obedience to knowledge. Whether in science or religion, our obedience is not blind when we act upon knowledge suited to the subject of our action. A scientist receives and acts upon a trusted certification of the content or conditions of a particular experiment. In matters of religion, a believer’s source of knowledge is spiritual, but the principle is the same. In the case of Latter-day Saints, when the Holy Ghost gives our souls a witness of the truth of the restored gospel and the calling of a modern prophet, our choice to follow those teachings is not blind obedience" (Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, May 2008).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

There is Nothing Wrong With an Honest Mistake. . . .

"There is a big difference between an honest mistake made in a moment of spiritual weakness and a willful decision to disobey persistently the commandments of God. Those who deliberately choose to violate god's commandments or ignore the standards of the Church, even when promising themselves and others that someday they will be strong enough to repent, are stepping onto a dangerously slippery slope upon which many have lost their spiritual footing" (M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, November 1997).

See also 3 Nephi 6:18.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Modern Day Scripture's Relation to the Bible

From a talk given by Apostle Russell M. Nelson:

Scriptures of the Restoration do not compete with the Bible; they complement the Bible.

Scriptural witnesses authenticate each other. This concept was explained long ago when a prophet wrote that the Book of Mormon was “written for the intent that ye may believe [the Bible]; and if ye believe [the Bible] ye will believe [the Book of Mormon] also” (Mormon 7:9). Each book refers to the other. Each book stands as evidence that God lives and speaks to His children by revelation to His prophets (D&C 5:10).

Love for the Book of Mormon expands one’s love for the Bible and vice versa. Scriptures of the Restoration do not compete with the Bible; they complement the Bible. We are indebted to martyrs who gave their lives so that we could have the Bible. It establishes the everlasting nature of the gospel and of the plan of happiness. The Book of Mormon restores and underscores biblical doctrines such as tithing (Alma 13:15; 3 Nephi 24:8–10), the temple (2 Nephi 5:16; Jacob 1:17; Jacob 2:2, 11; Mosiah 2:5–7), the Sabbath day (Mosiah 13:16–19; 18:23), and the priesthood (2 Nephi 6:2; Mosiah 18:18; Alma 6:1; Alma 13:1–3, 6–11; 3 Nephi 18:5; Moroni 3:1–4).

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Greatest Nation--The United States of America

The only event that can bring down the United States of America is the people of the United States of America. This truly is the greatest nation on this Earth, set apart as a free country for the righteous. If we continually repent of our sins and serve Jesus Christ, God will prosper us. If we continue to become more wicked, we will be removed from this great land. As the prophet Mormon prophesied over 1,600 years ago:

[The Lord] would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.

And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.

And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.

For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.

And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.

Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written (Book of Mormon | Ether 2:7 - 12).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Why We Should Pray

Luke, among others, recorded Jesus’ commandment “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (New Testament | Luke 18:1).

Amulek taught even more specifically about prayer in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ:
Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.
Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you (Book of Mormon | Alma 34:18 - 27).
As we keep the commandments, including this one to pray always, we are taught by Amulek’s companion Alma that “inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land” (Book of Mormon | Alma 36:30).

I have seen and felt many times in my life when keeping the commandments, especially the commandment to pray always, which brings me closer to God, which softens my heart, and makes it easier to obey God’s commandments, that my station in life has improved. At times, I have been prospered spiritually, at other times I have been prospered temporally, and at times in both ways!

I know that God keeps his promises and that he loves us. I know that God lives! I have seen and felt his presence many, many times in my life. His Holy Spirit is my constant companion, if I choose to allow it to enter my heart and mind. He does make my bosom burn inside of me the same way that Christ’s Apostles during his time ministering on the Earth did burn (Luke 24:32). I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is his son, and that through the Holy Ghost he does testify to us of all things, if we will but pray always. This is my testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Friday, July 11, 2008

Government Indifference to Freedom

"And now, when Moroni saw that the city of Nephihah was lost he was exceedingly sorrowful, and began to doubt, because of the wickedness of the people, whether they should not fall into the hands of their brethren.
Now this was the case with all his chief captains. They doubted and marveled also because of the wickedness of the people, and this because of the success of the Lamanites [their enemies] over them.
And it came to pass that Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country" (Book of Mormon | Alma 59:11-13).

Within the current political landscape, one where politicians tell us we "deserve" things, one where many people feel "entitled" to things, all of which carry a price, that price being a lack of freedom, be it in choosing heath care providers or how to spend the money we earn, doesn't this scripture written approximately 1600 years ago ring true today?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Christ Took Upon Himself Our Infirmities

"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Book of Mormon | Alma 7:11 - 12).

Commentary on the above passage:

"[Christ] showed condescension when he chose to suffer, not only for our sins, but for the infirmities, sicknesses, and illnesses of mankind. But the agonies of the Atonement were infinite and first-hand! Since not all human sorrow and pain is connected to sin, the full intensiveness of the Atonement involved bearing our pains, infirmities, and sicknesses, as well as our sins" (Neal A. Maxwell, Doctrines of the Book of Mormon, 1991 Sperry Synposium, p. 87).

"The Savior knows what it's like to die from cancer" (Neal A. Maxwell, Even As I Am, pp. 116-117).

"Whatever the source of pain, Jesus understands and can heal the spirit as well as teh body. The Savior, as a member of the Godhead, knows each of us personally. . . . In the garden and on the cross, Jesus saw each of us and not only bore our sins, but also experienced our deepest feelings so that he would know how to comfort and strengthen us" (Merrill J. Bateman, "The Power to Heal From Within," Ensign, May 1995).

"Jesus knows and understands when we are stressed and perplexed? The complete consecration which effected the Atonement ensured Jesus’ perfect empathy; He felt our very pains and afflictions before we did and knows how to succor us" (Neal A. Maxwell, "Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father," Ensign, Nov. 1995).

"To succor means to 'run to.' I testify that in my fears and in my infirmities the Savior has surely run to me. I will never be able to thank Him enough for such personal kindness and such loving care" (Jeffrey R. Holland, "He Hath Filled the Hungry With Good Things," Ensign, Nov. 1997).

God Will Sustain Us

I have a heavy heart as of late. Some of my friends are struggling, and though they may not know it, I struggle with them. I am temporarily separated from my wife and children, which pains me to no end. I am frustrated with my own weaknesses. Our alleged leadership in Congress drives me absolutely crazy with their complete disdain for what is best for America, their disdain for economic levers, and their actions that seem to imply only a concern for person gain in either wealth or power as they play party politics.

However, it is my faith that sustains me. My faith allows me to realize that this is a promised land, a land ordained by God. I know that there will be trials, that you and I each have our own individual mountains to climb. But I also know that God gives us these trials to strengthen us. I know, yes, I KNOW, I have absolutely no doubt that in the end, all will be well.

I have a testimony that God, the Father and his son, Jesus Christ, that together they appeared to Joseph Smith. I know Jesus and he knows me perfectly. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan and a purpose for me. And I know that whatever mistake is made it can be overcome, resolved, and is forgotten by God through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Saturday I had a wonderful day. I spent most of the day reading and listening to the Holy Ghost. He spoke comfort to my soul. He brought peace into my heart. He directed me to attend the temple, though I still am unsure why. I am left to assume it was for someone else, perhaps the person whose work I performed or perhaps the people who recognized me in the temple. Regardless, I know I was supposed to be there. I went, didn’t miss a beat, returned home, and finished my book. It was like I had been carried to the temple at the specific time I needed to go and carried back, like it did not take any time out of my day.

Then as I finished by book, I finished it overcome in tears because the Holy Ghost testified to me of the power of the Priesthood. The Holy Ghost testified to me to not fear in these, the last days, where calamity and strife will sure surely increase, because God is with us. Our ancestors are with us. They are cheering us along, hoping and praying we make the right choices, hoping for an opportunity to help us.

I feel that things are going to get worse before they get better in this world. But I know that God not only is there, willing to help, but he is there desiring to comfort us. There will certainly be trials. It takes resistance to build strength. But when we look back, when I look back specifically at my life, I can see the hands of God impacting all that I have done. I can see where the trials I have faced have led me to where I am today. I can see how those trials have built my faith and my testimony.

I am a son of God. I wish only to share with you the light and knowledge he has blessed me with because I feel like one of the gifts God has granted me is to express the thoughts of my heart with words. I know that My Redeemer Lives! I know that there is a prophet on this Earth today. I know that there are two scriptural witnesses of Jesus Christ, a stick of Judah and a stick of Joseph. I share with you my testimony and these thoughts from my heart, in Jesus’ sacred name. Amen.